Marseille v Atlético: form, route to final, key men – UEFA Europa League – News
Story so far
Marseille OM have effectively had two campaigns since starting in the third qualifying round. Their travels have brought a solitary win and five defeats by one-goal margins in nine outings. Then there’s their irresistible form at home, where they are unbeaten with eight victories and a lone 0-0 draw.
Route to the final
Third qualifying round: 4-2 agg v Oostende (BEL)
Play-off: 4-1 agg v Domžale (SVN)
Group I runners-up
Round of 32: 3-1 agg v Braga (POR)
Round of 16: 5-2 agg v Athletic Club (ESP)
Quarter-finals: 5-3 agg v Leipzig (GER)
Semi-finals: 3-2 agg (aet) v Salzburg (AUT)
Atlético Eliminated at the UEFA Champions League group stage, Atleti have pursued a third UEFA Europa League title with steely-eyed determination. København and Lokomotiv Moskva were summarily dismissed before closer affairs against Sporting CP and Arsenal.
Route to the final
Transferred from UCL group stage
Round of 32: 5-1 agg v København (DEN)
Round of 16: 8-1 agg v Lokomotiv Moskva (RUS)
Quarter-finals: 2-1 agg v Sporting CP (POR)
Semi-finals: 2-1 agg v Arsenal (ENG)
Possible starting XIs
Marseille Pelé (FRA); Sakai (JPN), Rami (FRA), Luiz Gustavo (BRA), Amavi (FRA); Zambo Anguissa (CMR), Sanson (FRA); Thauvin (FRA), Payet (FRA); Sarr (FRA), Mitroglou (GRE)
Atlético Oblak (SVN); Juanfran (ESP), Savić (MNE), Godín (URU), Lucas (FRA); Correa (ARG), Saúl Ñíguez (ESP), Gabi (ESP), Koke (ESP); Griezmann (FRA), Diego Costa (ESP)
Dimitri Payet, Marseille: The 31-year-old France playmaker showcased his talent in the remarkable quarter-final comeback against Leipzig – claiming an assist before scoring the decisive goal in typically flamboyant fashion – and then set up all three OM strikes in the semi-final. He has hit form at just the right time, topping the competition player rankings.
Antoine Griezmann, Atlético The 27-year-old France forward is making a habit of picking up the scoring pace in the new year – his first 24 club games this season brought eight goals; he subsequently netted 19 in the next 22. His influence on this competition was further enhanced by his two key moments in the Rojiblancos’ semi-final: first equalising away to Arsenal, then teeing up Diego Costa for the winner in the return.
Ones to watch
Marseille: Florian Thauvin (forward), Morgan Sanson (midfielder)
Atlético: Jan Oblak (goalkeeper), Saúl Ñíguez (midfielder)
Rudi Garcia, Marseille Nearing the end of his second season at the helm, former midfielder Garcia has an impressive pedigree. The 54-year-old masterminded Lille’s surprise double in 2010/11 and later led Roma to back-to-back runners-up spots in Serie A.
Diego Simeone, Atlético A fine midfielder capped 106 times by Argentina, Simeone has established an equally formidable reputation as a coach. The 47-year-old took over at Atlético in December 2011, bridging the gap to Real Madrid and Barcelona and scooping five trophies for the Rojiblancos’ cabinet, including this tournament in 2012.
Why might they win it?
Marseille OM’s attacking verve can certainly give any team problems and the form of Payet and Thauvin especially is cause for optimism. Then there’s the venue for this final, just a three-hour drive north of Marseille in Lyon – a good omen considering their impressive record at home in the competition this season?
Atlético On paper, Atleti are the best side in the tournament. Built on the bedrock of one of Europe’s best defensive units, they have a midfield able to adapt to any situation and, in Griezmann in particular, a strike force that doesn’t waste much.
Room for improvement?
Marseille Defence has been OM’s Achilles heel of late, especially from set pieces and long-range shots, with keeper Steve Mandanda’s potentially season-ending thigh injury a blow. Marseille have mustered just two clean sheet in their last 18 outings.
Atlético Atleti have a small senior squad so it doesn’t take too many setbacks to have them reaching into their admittedly well-stocked youth ranks. Filipe Luís is a long-term absentee and when Lucas Hernández and Diego Costa were forced off in the quarter-final return at Sporting, the Rojiblancos struggled.
Tell me something I don’t know
Marseille The club’s motto, Droit au But (Straight to the Goal), is perfect for a football team but actually dates back to the days when the club’s main sport was rugby union.
Atlético There is a theory Atleti adopted their red-and-white stripes after a board member failed to find upgraded Blackburn kits during a trip to England in 1911. He instead bought Southampton shirts, with the Spaniards opting to keep their blue Blackburn shorts.